Walt Disney World Reopening During Coronavirus Pandemic

Today I am going to discuss the reopening policies at Walt Disney World. I am including a link to dive a little further, as well as putting my personal thoughts about the subject. You don’t have to agree with me at all. I am welcoming discussion and your thoughts on this topic as well. As long as we keep it peaceful and keep the magic alive. 😉

My brother, myself, Chip, and my mom. 1996

When Walt Disney World reopens there will be plenty of changes to the way we usually go about things:

  1. Guests are required to wear face coverings.
  2. There will be a much smaller capacity in the parks.
  3. Guests are required to have a reservation to get into the park which can be obtained from the My Disney Experience account.
  4. Both dining plans and Fastpass+ reservations are suspended for the time being.
  5. Most restaurants will be closed.
  6. We are unaware of which resorts will be opening and when. All we know is that by June 22nd the Disney Vacation Club Resorts as well as Fort Wilderness will be open.

So, let’s dive into the dining plan first, since that seems to be a topic of high priority. Walt Disney World began offering the dining plan to guests staying at a Walt Disney owned and operated resort in 2005. If you traveled to Walt Disney World from 1965-2004 such a thing did not exist. For the time being we are going back to the way things were before we became technologically advanced, and dare I say it a little impatient?

From this, I am going to move onto booking dining reservations. At this time, Walt Disney World has changed the reservation system. Advanced Dining Reservations are no longer booked at the 180-day mark. You can make your Advanced Dining Reservations 60 days before your dining experience, much like the dining reservation system at Disneyland. I personally like this system much better. Being an authorized Disney vacation planner, I book my clients’ dining reservations for them, and I have had several tell me in the past, “I don’t know what I want to eat 6 months from now, this is so stressful!” I completely agree, especially if you are going to Disney for the first time. I think it is much better to decide what you would like to eat 60 days in advance than 6 months in advance. Again, this is my personal thoughts and opinions, and we don’t know how long these procedures will be in effect. For a full list of updated policies and procedures, click here.

Stroll down memory lane: I remember going to Walt Disney World on my high school senior trip. We didn’t dine at many table service restaurants, but we did dine at 50’s Prime Time Café in Hollywood Studios, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in Magic Kingdom, and Teppan Edo in Epcot. When we were ready to eat, we just walked up to the restaurant, put our names in for a table, and waited for a few minutes like you would do at any other restaurant.

On to the Fastpass+ system. The Fastpass+ system began at Walt Disney World in 1999. It was originally a ticket system, which has now been upgraded to the My Disney Experience App and Magic Bands. Before Fastpass+ reservations, everyone waited in line and took their turn on their favorite attractions. Although I must add Walt Disney World was not the mega theme park it is today.

Let’s move on to safety. The Walt Disney Co. has repeatedly said the safety of its guests and employees is of the highest importance. Guests and Cast Members are required to wear face coverings at all times unless seated to eat or while swimming. Things that will draw a crowd such as fireworks, Extra Magic Hours, and the Electrical Water Pageant will all be suspended temporarily. Experiences such as day cares, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and Mermaid School are also suspended temporarily.

When I first received notice of these new policies, I was a little taken-aback and upset, but now I am getting used to the idea that Walt Disney World doesn’t have to be so much planning all the time. That is why some people are hesitant when it comes to booking a Disney vacation. There is a lot to think about if you want your vacation planned to the “T”. If you take away dining reservations and Fastpass+ reservation, and just show up and wing it, that may make some of us a little nervous, or take the fun out of it for us planners, but think about waking up and saying, “Hm.. Where do you want to go today, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios?”

How do you feel about these new policies? Do you think they will be in effect for long?

-M

Magical Memories at Olivia’s

For my family, a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without visiting Old Key West resort. Fun fact: Old Key West was the first resort to become a Disney Vacation Club property back in 1991. Modeled after the Florida Keys, this laid-back resort is adorned with glistening waterways, palm trees, and well-kept fairways.

First let’s talk about the transportation. Old Key West is off the beaten path, so to speak. You can enjoy a quick, leisurely boat ride to Disney Springs, or hop on Disney’s complimentary buses to one of Disney’s four theme parks or two water parks. On one of our recent trips, my family and I spent the day at Disney Springs then we headed to Old Key West for our dinner reservation at Olivia’s. Working up an appetite, our best means of transportation was the Conch Flats Nature Walking Trail. Follow this trail from Disney Springs to Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. On this trail you will enjoy views of (you guessed it) nature, and a glimpse of some of Disney’s golf courses! Depending on your pace, it can take anywhere from 15-35 minutes to walk this path, but please note this path is only open from dawn to dusk and you must not go astray.

Everything about the atmosphere at Old Key West is friendly and inviting. If you are arriving primarily to dine at Old Key West, make sure you allow yourself some time to enjoy the resort. If you can, take a moment to chat with a Cast Member in the lobby, they always have a good story to tell. The gift shop has some great odds and ends that you usually cannot find anywhere else on property! Finally, take a walk over to the boat dock around sunset; the view is breathtaking!  

Now, onto the dining experience!

Olivia’s is a true hidden gem of Walt Disney World. If someone were to ask me to list my top three restaurants at Walt Disney World, Olivia’s would be my number one choice! Upon entrance into this quaint restaurant you will find pictures of the Disney Vacation Club members who make Old Key West their home resort. My children love guessing how old each person was in the photo and when the photo was taken.

The dining area is very casual with a Key West flair, and the service and food are fantastic! My oldest child’s middle name is Olivia, so originally, we made a reservation for the sole purpose of dining at a restaurant that had a special meaning to us. After we had an exceptional meal at Olivia’s, we now make a reservation every trip to Walt Disney World.

My family’s favorites: Cayo Hueso shrimp pasta and the Seven Mile Sea Scallops with polenta and edamame-pancetta succotash. For starters we order the Conch Fritters, which the children surprisingly enjoy. The adults indulge on a Captain’s Mai Tai which is made with Amaretto and Dark Rum, and a Lava Colada which is a Raspberry Pina Colada! On trips past we have delighted in Olivia’s specialty, a pitcher of Red Sangria.  The children both really enjoy the child’s mac ‘n cheese, and a build your own sundae with Mickey shaped sprinkles.
Side-note: I’m not a fan of my children always getting chicken nuggets or mac ‘n cheese when we go out to eat, but I must say that the mac ‘n cheese was a very large portion and was rather tasty. As for me, I always get the same thing, mainly because it is always exquisite: the Seven Mile Sea Scallops. I would absolutely recommend the Lava Colada for your cocktail.

The dessert portion made our entire meal more than memorable. Our waitress brought out a Mile Marker Zero as a birthday surprise. For those of you who don’t know, Mile Marker Zero is a Tropical Panna Cotta.  In the middle of singing “Happy Birthday” the little umbrella that was in the dessert leaned against the lit candle and caught on fire, making me gasp and the guests in the restaurant burst into hysterical laughter. Magical memories were made that night, and for many more trips at Olivia’s Café at Old Key West Resort.

For you fellow DVC Members, don’t forget this restaurant does accept a 10% discount, as well as Tables in Wonderland, and Disney Visa discounts.

I absolutely loved everything about this restaurant, from the cast members to the food. The food was elegant while the restaurant was laid back and casual. I am anxiously awaiting my next endeavor at Olivia’s!

For the full menu, click here

Until Next Time,

-M

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

IMG_20191121_161154Since the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, my family begins our mornings in Hollywood Studios very early, so that by dinner time we are ready to find a place to relax for a while. For a few years now, we have been wanting to dine at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, and there was usually a schedule mishap, so our dining experience kept getting put off.

A few months ago, I made a reservation for 5:30 at the Dine-In. While we were waiting for our seats, my kiddos played in the parked car outside the restaurant with some other children.

IMG_20191121_165218When walking into the restaurant, my kids gasped. I think they were in awe. Is that a giant TV screen? Mom is letting me eat and watch TV while in Hollywood Studios? This is a dream come true!

The restaurant is dim, with stars lighting the path. Each person is seated in their own car, which seats 6. If you need a bigger booth, that is available too. Some cars may pick up hitchhikers along the journey to fill the car. Since the restaurant is dimly lit, each booth has a table light for you to see your food. We were seated in the very first car, so my kids got a front row view of what was playing on the screen, and Mom and Dad got a mini date while the girls sat together up ahead!

Now, onto the food. The food is diner style. Burgers, salads, pastas, barbecue. Fun fact: I am a sucker for fried pickles, and I can eat that as my meal. Guess what is on the menu… fried pickles!

My husband loves a good burger, especially if it has a little kick to it. So, he ordered the Drive-in BBQ Burger. I ordered the specialty burger of the day which was a fried green tomato burger. It was good, but way too much food for me. The burgers came with a side of fries. My girls ordered the macaroni and cheese and the cheeseburger with a salad and celery and carrots for sides.

After you dine, don’t forget to have your children ask for their driver’s license!

IMG_20191121_163328We had a great time at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. We will be going back in a few months! 😊 

For a full menu, click here.

Walt Disney World’s Gateway Hotels

Blog contribution by Meredith Michler, Travel Advisor – The Mouse Detectives

For those of us with the love of travel running through us, there is always that yearning for more. More knowledge, more adventure, and as Elsa would put it more going, “into the unknown.” 

As authorized Disney vacation planners we are expected to keep up to date with the latest travel news and training courses as part of our yearly Disney College of Knowledge assessments. Not only do we gain more expertise to help you, our clients, but also earn the privilege to go on tours and trips to further our Disney knowledge. 

Recently, my family went to Walt Disney World and I had an opportunity to partake in a tour of Disney Gateway Resorts. At the time, I didn’t know which resorts I would be visiting, nor did I know any other agents I would be on the tour with, but I felt this opportunity was meant for me. My children and my husband headed to the Lego Store at Disney Springs while I strolled to the bus stop to meet my fellow travelers for the next 5 hours. 

So, why a Disney Gateway Resort? Well, sometimes families request a resort that is the calm away from the crowds, doesn’t have Disney theming, possibly their first choice in resorts is not available, or they are looking for a more cost-effective price per night. 

A few things I learned from my five-hour tour: Disney Gateway Resorts offer similar amenities as staying on Disney grounds such as 60-day Fastpass+ Reservations and access to Extra Magic Hours in the parks. You will not be able to purchase the dining plan; that, unfortunately is a perk of staying at a Disney owned and operated resort.  Most have shuttle service to the parks each day on a rotating schedule, although some hotels will charge a daily fee. Sunday brunch with the characters? Enjoy character dining, walk the Skybridge to Disney Springs, or watch nighttime firework spectaculars all from the comfort of your resort.

We started our tour at the Springhill Suites and Towneplace Suites by Marriott. These are located adjacent to one another in Flamingo Crossings. These resorts are moderately priced, and the rooms are complete with workspace, sleep space, and some rooms are provided with a fully equipped kitchen. 

The next stop on our agent tour was the Hilton properties of Disney Springs: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista and Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace. These two deluxe resorts are connected to Disney Springs via the Skybridge. Did someone say a room with a view of the fireworks, a pool with a lazy river, and character breakfast on Sundays? Well, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Palace is your one stop shop for all these amenities plus more! 

Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista and Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace

Lastly, we arrived at the crown jewel of all hotels! As we pulled into one of the properties, I was awestruck. This hotel has been on my own personal bucket list for quite some time, and I am so thrilled to have been given the opportunity to tour this amazing resort. Nestled within the Golden Oak community, residing in an Orlando oasis, is the only Five Diamond Awarded property within 150 miles of Orlando.  At Four Seasons Orlando enjoy a 5-acre water park, a complimentary kids’ camp, world class dining, the only adult-only pool on Disney property, a Tom Fazio golf course, an incredible spa, and much more! 

Four Seasons Orlando

Fun Video on What to Expect at the Four Seasons Orlando

That was the icing on the cake. When the day was complete, I met my family at the Wilderness Lodge where my children were playing with their new Lego sets. We had dinner at Geyser Point, then my oldest and I headed to the Magic Kingdom to catch Extra Magic Hours and caught the last ferry back to the resort at midnight. I’ll save those details another day.  😉 

On your next stay, will you be willing to try a Disney Gateway? 

Thank you so much to Meredith for contributing this blog post! Contact her for complimentary Disney vacation planning services at meredith@themousedetectives.com !